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Hosted IP telephony maturing for mainstream enterprise adoption

By Doug Carolus and Nick Wray, senior associates, Pace Harmon, special to Network World
July 27, 2012 02:41 PM ET

Network World - IP telephony adoption has progressed slowly for more than a decade, but with hosted voice vendors now offering modular consumption models and shifting away from simply viewing hosted voice as a way to sell broader unified communications (UC) solutions, organizations can now pursue IP telephony services as a highly scalable stand-alone service.

While a comparison of the financial cases for customer-owned or vendor-hosted IP telephony service should be performed on a case-by-case basis, recent market developments, enhanced service offerings, and deployment methodologies have created a significant opportunity for mainstream corporate adoption of hosted voice services.

TREND: Managed communication services move to the cloud

ANALYSIS: Why should you consider VoIP and UC as a service?

Beyond the roadblocks imposed by a struggling economy, enterprise adoption of IP telephony has been hampered by multiple factors. For example, many legacy TDM systems provide acceptable performance and reliability ("if it ain't broke, don't fix it"), and since many PBXs are fully depreciated, it can be difficult to make a compelling case for their replacement.

Limited knowledge of underlying communications infrastructure (e.g., LAN switches and structured cabling) and uncertainty about potential requirements and costs to upgrade infrastructure to support VoIP, also present challenges, as do delays around gaining organization-wide consensus and vendors' lack of a compelling value proposition to make the switch.

In spite of these barriers, hosted voice services can make the transition to IP telephony more compelling as well as deliver meaningful operational benefits. Financial benefits may include eliminating the capital requirements for the migration in exchange for predictable operating expenses through the life cycle of the service, lower total cost of ownership via a multi-tenant model that enables IT infrastructure costs to be "shared," as well as a path to quickly eliminating ever-increasing legacy TDM system maintenance costs.

There are operational benefits as well, including business continuity and disaster recovery capabilities that are wrapped into the service, removing the need for complex technology architectures and operational processes to support system resiliency. Enterprises also avoid the risk of technology obsolescence as the multi-tenant model encourages the hosted voice provider to maintain telephony platforms at current release levels.

Further, administration and operation (e.g., through centralized system management, trunking, dial plans, call control, and consolidation with adjunct applications such as messaging) are standardized, operational support requirements are reduced, and enterprises gain the ability to rapidly extend service to new sites.

Vendor service offering improvements

In addition to the financial and operational benefits intrinsic to the hosted IP telephony model, vendors have improved their offerings and pricing structures over the last two to three years to address issues that previously hindered adoption.

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